Vinyasa is a multivalent Sanskrit term with various layers of subtle meaning. Vinyasa Flow commonly refers to a style of yoga which incorporates breath synchronized movement, along with other ancient teachniques, such as bandhas, breath, and dristi or focal points. Vinyasa Flow yoga has its roots in the Astanga Yoga tradition of Sri K. Pattabhi Jois of Mysore, South India. Incorporating a creative sequence of classical yoga postures linked by the breath, the practice builds internal heat leading to purification of the koshas or layers of the body.
The word vinyasa is composed of the particles, nyasa and vi. Nyasa denotes "to place" and vi denotes "in a special way." In Lori Gaspar's Yoga Chicago article, "The Many Nuances of Vinyasa", she states "there are four basic definitions of vinyasa: 1) the linking of body movement with breath; 2) a specific sequence of breath-synchronized movements used to transition between sustained postures; 3) setting an intention for one's personal yoga practice and taking the necessary steps toward reaching that goal; and 4) a type of yoga class."
Your Vinyasa Flow teacher may ask you to "take a vinyasa" during class. In this case, vinyasa is employed as a noun to describe the sequence of poses of Chaturanga (4 limb stick pose), Up Dog and Down Dog, typically found in the Sun Salutations A & B, and interweaved throughout class to link poses and sequences together; though this is more correctly termed half-vinyasa as full-vinyasa returns to standing position or tadasana. In the Astanga tradition, a full vinyasa is synonymous with Sun Salutation A.
The Many Nuances of Vinyasa by Lori Gaspar
Yoga Chicago, Nov-Dec 2003